Hall of Fame: John Koss: The Opportunist Who Launched a Market
John Koss remembers well when his partner, engineer Martin Lange Jr., called to him from an upstairs room. “He said he thought he had something,” Koss said.
Lange and Koss were working on a portable phonograph player, a private listening unit that would include a set of headphones. “But we couldn’t find any (headphones) that would do the job. They were all made for warplanes and communications, “ Koss explained in a company video.
Lange had rigged a prototype stereo headphone using an old World War II Air Force headset, rubber bands, cardboard and two tiny speakers. “It didn’t look like much,” Koss recalled.
But Ted Heath and his Big Band Orchestra’s album, an early stereo recording, was on the player. “I hooked it (the prototype) all up in the back of the speakers and turned it on and wow! It was terrific!” Koss said. “I’d never heard anything like it! My God, the big sound just bouncing all over!”
A month later, in a hotel room, Koss and Lange demonstrated the unit to attendees of a local hi-fi show. “You’d put (the headphones) on their head, and their eyes would pop open! Holy Mackerel!”
The headphones, not the player, were the hit, and Koss and Lange’s 1958 invention would kick start a headphone market that is slated to total more than $965 million in 2013, according to Consumer Electronics Association research. Headphones and ear buds are expected to be the most popular CE device given during the holiday season.